Porters, handymen and concierges with the New York-based property services union 32BJ SEIU walked off the job today at a Newport condo building because they say the condo board is refusing to bargain in good faith.
ðŸš¨Strike alert! ðŸš¨ Residential workers at a Jersey City condo high-rise with million-dollar apartments walked off the job this morning to protest the condo board’s bad faith bargaining in the middle of a pandemic. https://t.co/d0Om31gLqf #ProtectAllWorkers pic.twitter.com/VprwU401nK
â€” 32BJ SEIU (@32BJSEIU) April 28, 2020
By Marc Bussanich/Hudson County View
Billy Valdez is one of 11 workers who work at the James Monroe Condominium, located at 45 River Dr South, and he is part of the bargaining committee that is trying to negotiate a new contract that expired on December 31, 2019.
According to the union, the bargaining committee was even willing to extend the terms of the expired contract until the state of emergency is lifted as a show of good will.
Instead, the condo board, led by the board president, Padmam Palani, wants to slash wages, as well as eliminate pensions and overtime and has filed a claim with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the union is the one that is bargaining in bad faith.
Valdez has been working at James Monroe for 30 years and he said heâ€™s never experienced these types of onerous demands.
â€œThey want to cut our pay by $4 per hour. This has been the same board for the past few years and this is the first time weâ€™ve had to endure this. Itâ€™s like he just flipped the switch. He never offered great contracts before, but we canâ€™t go along with the elimination of overtime and our pensions,â€ said Valdez.
When Valdez heard directly from the condo board about their demands, he said he couldnâ€™t believe what he was hearing.
â€œAt that point, for the first time, we as employees were not appreciated by this board president,â€ Valdez said.
Workers were brought in today to replace union members and while they hope to reconvene negotiations with the condo board, Valdez doesnâ€™t see a settlement coming any time soon soon.
When questioned if the union will have to strike, he said that seems like the only alternative.
â€œI donâ€™t really see any other option, I really donâ€™t.â€
The James Monroe Condominium is located Downtown and the union received support from Ward E Councilman James Solomon. In a statement, he said that essential workers deserve raises, not cuts.
â€œThe workers at the James Monroe Condo are on the front lines. I stand with them as they fight against a condo board that seeks cuts to their wages in the midst of this pandemic.â€
Additionally, 32BJ SEIUÂ Vice President and New Jersey Director Kevin Brown stated that itâ€™s unconscionable for the condo board to try to use the pandemic to “undercut the workersâ€™ wages, benefits and rights.”
The condo board did not immediately return inquiries seeking comment.